A gleefully dark & violent Russian family feud
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Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) has just one objective: to gain entry to his girlfriend’s parents’ apartment and kill her father Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) with a hammer to restore her honor. But all is not as it initially seems, and Matvey’s attempts to bludgeon the family patriarch to death don’t quite go to plan as Andrey proves a more formidable — not to mention ruthless — opponent than he anticipated… and Matvey, for his part, proves stubbornly unwilling to die. Making his feature debut, writer/director Kirill Sokolov presents a rousing tale of family, modern relationships and the dark places they can take you to when things turn sour. Featuring a soundtrack that veers between Ennio Morricone-esque western riffs and toe-tappingly catchy pop numbers, Why Don’t You Just Die! delivers laughs, shocking twists and copious quantities of blood and gore, and establishes Sokolov as one of cinema’s brightest rising stars.
When you think of Russian cinema, it’s usually somber, weighty fare that spring to mind. Classics such as Battleship Potemkin, War and Peace, Come and See, and even more modern fare such as Nightwatch, Leviathan, and Euphoria. Why Don’t You Die! takes that darkness you’d expect, and marries it to a vibrant and often gleeful dash of violence and black comedy. A family feud escalated to brutal levels starts off when young Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) pledges to his girlfied Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde)that he will murder her father Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev), retribution for his molestation of her as a child. Armed with a hammer, he pays him a visit, but things don’t go quite as planned.
Child abuse and murder don’t immediately prep the mind for a entertaining movie, but Why Don’t You Die! treads a fine line between the bleak and the darkly comic. There’s plenty of entertainment from the carnage between the two men, a conflict that veers towards the slapstick at times. A game of cat and mouse as the pair shift positions, making use of their surroundings to hunt or evade, improvising weapons with whatever comes to hand. The graphic nature of the film is tempered by some depth through the use of flashbacks, to flesh out the past of these people and other players who arrive as the film takes plenty of intriguing twists and turns. Sharp writing combine with sleek direction, both a credit to writer/director Kirill Sokolov, who quickly introduces characters and plot points. Despite this, it does feel like there are some gaps in the film, or where decisions to put style over over substance which detracts from the main plot. These creative stumbles are a testament to the flair of Sokolov, but a hint of how a little more restraint, could make him an even more potent force behind the camera.
A relatively new production (released back in 2018), the transfer shows off a sharp crispness you would expect. Details are top notch, with a palette that leans into orangy and green hues, lifting the visuals. Its a quality presentation for sure. Extra features also impress:
- Brand new interview with author and critic Kim Newman, exploring Why Don’t You Just Die! within the context of the long-standing tradition of single location cinema: The featurette does discuss the difficulties and adept use of the single location, but also goes beyond that, breaking down the themes and inspirations behind the movie, notably those from the Western genre
- Exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals and the film set: Mostly worth watching for the sections dealing with the fight sequence choreography
- Four short films by Kirill Sokolov: Could Be Worse, The Outcome, The Flame and the award-winning Sisyphus is Happy (Best Director and Gold Frame awards, 2013 Unprecedented Cinema International Festival of Short Film): Why they vary in quality, they are all a fun watch, and its pretty interesting to see the ideas and the filmmaker’s predilections seeded before coming together in his full length feature
- Theatrical trailer:
- Kirill Sokolov’s complete original storyboard for the film (BD-ROM content): Why these sort of features aren’t formatted for a standard player is beyond me
- Reversible sleeve featuring two choices of artwork:
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Neil Mitchell:
The Bottom Line
Why Don’t You Just Die! is a gnarly piece of work, a bloody punch of cinema from Kirill Sokolov, that revels in a bleak tone, grisly violence, and a black sense of humor. Arrow’s presentation offers impressive visuals, and a real standout set of extra features.
Arrow Video’s Why Don’t You Just Die! is available via MVD Entertainment group now.